Can Alcohol Cause Hormonal Woes and PMS?
Period Expert, Miranda Popen, explains how to drink without disrupting your hormones.
Every month, a reported 75% of women experience premenstrual symptoms in the form of cramping, bloating, exhaustion, muscle soreness, and heightened emotions. If you’re part of this majority, you’ve probably been told that suffering through this miserable bag of party tricks your period shows up with is “normal” and “nothing to worry about”. But, according to hormonal health expert Miranda Popen, PMSing is far from normal, and drinking even small amounts of alcohol can disrupt your hormones, making your periods unnecessarily painful.
“The glorious thing about being a human-producing, menstruating woman is that every single symptom we experience is a sign from your amazing body,” she recently told rē•spin. “A body, by the way, that was not designed to experience anything that sounds hormonally exhausting. The idea that PMS symptoms are just a part of being a woman is one of the biggest pieces of misinformation delivered to women of all ages.”
Debunking the PMS myth
According to Popen, the reason that women experience PMS is largely due to estrogen dominance, micronutrient deficiencies, and the disruption of sensitive little hormones called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are lipids/hormones created to combat the pain your body experiences from inflammation. These built-in pain killers are supposed to have your back when it comes to period pain, but when they get knocked out of balance (from external hormone disruptors like alcohol) they can’t pull through for you when you need them the most.
“You have two teams of prostaglandins inside of you,” Popen explains. “On one team, we have PgE2’s – they play a little dirty and cause uterine contractions otherwise known as period cramps. On the other team, we have PgE1 and PgE3, whose sole purpose is to act as a defense to counteract the pain of contractions. When we experience cramps, the PgE2 team is winning, when ideally team PgE1 and PgE3 should be saving the day to combat the pain.” Getting these important hormones into the right balance comes down to supporting what your hormones are made of through a healthy diet and supplementation.
So what should a healthy period look like? “It should start and end with a nice, strong flow that is bright ruby or cranberry in color- although there’s a wide range of reds that can be used to describe healthy menstrual blood, so don’t be worried if yours isn’t fire engine red.” If brown, pink, or any other color of the rainbow show up in your flow, it’s important to tell your doctor. Ideally, Popen says you want your period to last for 5-7 days and show up every 28 to 32 days, but whatever is consistent to your body is what truly matters.
How alcohol causes hormonal misfiring
Many women report having their worst premenstrual symptoms in January, and for good reason. Popen explains that alcohol elevates estrogen levels, which is a primary cause of hormonal health issues. Alcohol also depletes your body’s micronutrients faster than it can replace them. Even if you focus on eating a healthy, organic diet, when you drink alcohol you strip the body of many micronutrients that can help address estrogen dominance symptoms. “Endometriosis, PCOS, PMS, fibroids, acne, cramps, weight loss resistance – these conditions all live under the estrogen dominant umbrella.”
It doesn’t take much alcohol to disrupt your hormonal balance either. One glass a week is enough to experience PMS during your monthly flow, but your period will let you know how much you can or can’t handle. “If your period shows up as a different color or you have new hormonal symptoms or severities after patio season or New Year’s Eve, it’s time to look at your habits around drinking.” But, Popen isn’t asking you to stop sipping on your favorite cocktail anytime soon. There are nourishing alcohol protocols she suggests following after drinking to make sure you flow through your menstrual cycle with ease.
A nourishing protocol to nix PMS
“A lot of us get into this guilty or shameful state that convinces us to make up for the drinking we just did, but it’s more important to support the detoxification system,” Popen says. “You can still have a glass of wine! I’m here to tell you how you can live a balanced 80/20 life, without suffering the hormonal consequences.” Popen recommends taking the following micro-actions to support detoxification and keep your hormones balanced after drinking:
- Drink warm lemon water with cinnamon to help your detoxification system
- Have proteins, fat, and kimchi for breakfast
- Drink green juice with either cilantro/parsley/dandelion
- Implement electrolytes with some BCAAs
She also recommends taking a B complex vitamin and magnesium when you know you’ll be having a few drinks. “Alcohol depletes these levels faster than you can eat them so use this supplement superstar the next day or if you’re closer to your period – seven days out.” Light movement, yoga, mobility, twisting, and rotating are also active ways you can support the recovery process. Most importantly, Popen wants you to remember that “you and your hormones absolutely do not have to suffer. At this point, experiencing PMS is a choice with the amount of information that is coming out to help you feel your best.”